FIC: Riders PG-13 (24/30)

This entry is part 24 of 30 in the series Riders
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Chapter 24 Don’t Fear The Reaper

All our times have come.
Here but now they’re gone.
Seasons don’t fear the reaper
nor do the wind, the sun or the rain.
We can be like they are.
Come on baby, don’t fear the reaper.
-Blue Oyster Cult
Don’t Fear The Reaper

McGee had decided to ride out to the mine as the sun rose so he could get a first hand look at how far the miners still had to excavate. He needed those pieces of the crystal.

When he rode through the gate, he noticed his entire shift of miners huddled around the entrance to the mine. They weren’t inside digging as they should have been; they were milling around outside. McGee pulled his horse up, swung down from the saddle and strode up to the foreman he had spied leaning by the side of the office, watching the crowd.

“Davis, what is going on? Why aren’t these men inside working? You know we have a
deadline.”

“They refuse to reenter the mine, sir.”

“Why the hell not?”

“About twenty minutes ago there was a tremor that originated in the closed east tunnel and then a large blast of very cold air. Everyone’s afraid the entire left side is going to come down.”

McGee felt a slight niggle of fear, compounded by confusion. “Did anyone see anything unusual?”

It was Davis’ turn to be confused. “Unusual, sir? In what way?”

“Never mind. How much farther do the miners need to dig to complete the access to the antechamber?”

“They finished the dig just before the tremor. The access to the antechamber has been completed. All that needs to be done to reach your diamonds is to blow a small hole through the rock wall dividing the chamber from the tunnel.” Davis shook his head. “But you won’t find one miner willing to set a blast after this morning, not even for double wages.”

“What about a small contingent of men with picks and shovels? Is that feasible? If so, how long would it take?”

Davis thought about the configuration of the tunnel they had just dug. “Yeah, that would probably work. You wouldn’t need more than a dozen men, anymore than that wouldn’t fit. If they would do it, probably wouldn’t take more than a couple hours to break through the rock”

“Call the men over, Davis. I have a proposition for them.”

The men filed over to hear what the big boss had to say. McGee offered triple wages to any man willing to dig through to the antechamber. He also offered to personally visit the site of the tremor and deem whether it was safe to venture into the mine. He would take
Davis and two volunteers with him.

The men murmured among themselves and finally two hardy souls stepped forward.
Everyone else watched as McGee, Davis and the two miners from first shift walked carefully into the mine.

McGee wasn’t worried about the tunnel. He and Grip had set the charges that had caused the original rock fall several months ago to keep the miners from digging near the imprisoned demons. The east tunnel was safe enough, but he was curious about the reason for the tremor and the blast of cold air. It sounded as if something had happened near the demons. He only hoped whatever had happened hadn’t allowed the demons to somehow escape.

He pushed past the warning sign and hurried down the tunnel with the other men walking carefully along behind him.

McGee, under the guise of a benevolent owner concerned for his employees’ safety first and foremost, ordered the men to wait at the end of the tunnel while he walked the rest of the way on his own. When he entered the cave, he realized that the impossible had happened. The cage was empty, the demons had escaped. The thought that the black rider had somehow double crossed him went through his mind. Now more than ever, he needed the rest of the crystal. He vowed not to leave the mine without the pieces in his hand, even if he had to ride herd over the miners himself for the remainder of the day.

Walking back to where the other three men waited, he made the thumbs up sign.

****

The Sheriff had hidden his fellow demons within his room at the back of the jail, admonishing them to remain quiet. They were extremely weak and welcomed the chance to rest and gain strength.

He sent his deputies out to the desert, ostensibly to hunt for a man wanted in another county. That would afford the demons complete privacy for the entire day. He had then gone to McGee’s office but the former Watcher was not there and neither was the Crystal of Namine. The rider deduced that McGee must have removed the crystal in order to double cross him. With this turn of events, he had been released from his blood oath. The rider set off hurriedly for the mine.

*****

After listening to Tara, Giles decided that until Willow completed the chant, it was too dangerous to do anything more with the crystal. They also needed to finish reading the books that concerned the four horsemen. Spike and Buffy hadn’t had any sleep and were exhausted, so Giles sent them back to their room. He would need his two strongest fighters later that night. He, Willow and Tara would continue the research and they would all meet up late in the afternoon.

****

The skeleton crew of miners broke through the barrier within an hour, spurred on by both the thought of triple wages and concern for their own safety; they finished much faster than anticipated.

Once the miners broke through the rock barrier, McGee sent everyone back to the entrance and entered the chamber alone. He quickly located the crystal fragments, pocketed them and returned to the entrance. He announced that everyone could have two days paid holiday as payment for working hard the past few weeks.

McGee mounted his horse and rode back toward his office. He needed to rebuild the crystal and regain control of the demons again.

****

The Sheriff arrived just after everyone had vacated the property, the mine and the grounds were completely empty. He quickly looked inside the mine but McGee had obviously already located and removed the crystal fragments. Confused and extremely angry, he was unsure where to locate McGee but he knew he could use the moon to locate him later, so he settled for returning to the jail. The Rider knew that he still needed the crystal to leave this dimension, so he would have to force the ex-Watcher into assisting. He could not kill him yet. He thought about this sudden turn of events and how best to deal with the traitorous human.

****

McGee sat slumped in his office chair and tried to think everything through. The crystal core was missing. When he arrived at his office and discovered the theft, he had immediately used the beacon charm but it hadn’t worked. Whoever had the core also had enough knowledge to remove the charm.

McGee still had the individual pieces from the mine but they were useless without the large core piece. He slammed his hand on the desk. He had jealously guarded ownership of the crystal for over one hundred years and it was nearly inconceivable that it was missing. There was only one logical answer, for some unknown reason, his partner had broken his blood oath and double crossed him. Grip must have stolen the crystal and set his fellow demons free. When had the demon gained enough knowledge to use the crystal? McGee realized that it didn’t matter. Either the demons would kill him now or robbed of his immortality, he would eventually die from the effects of his true age, still stuck within this dimension.

McGee placed his head in his hands. Either way he was a dead man.

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/189998.html

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